Sunday, January 6, 2019


Benjamin B Hotchkiss (1826 - 1885) was born in the USA and moved to France after the American Civil war.

In 1867 , he founded the company Hotchkiss et Cie specializing in the manufacture of military equipment especially cannons and guns. One of the famous unit was the Hotchkiss revolving gun

A Hotchkiss Revolving Gun

 Around 1900 , Hotchkiss entered automotive business by manufacturing and supplying engine components to car companies like Panhard-Levassor and De Dion-Bouton.

Prodded by a few car dealers , Hotchkiss started manufacturing their own cars in 1903. The first car was a Hotchkiss 17 CV.

An early version of the Hotchkiss car

Hotchkiss followed the "one model" policy till 1929 when they introduced multiple models.

In 1948, Hotchkiss bough the license of a front wheel drive technology from Gregoire and the luxury car Hotchkiss-Gregoire was introduced.

In 1955 , another Luxury model Hotchkiss Anjou was introduced.

Dwindling volumes and teething problem led to the downfall of the Hotchkiss cars.

In 1954 , Hotchkiss merged with Delahaye to form Societe Hotchliss-Delahaye. By 1995,, Hotchkiss was taken over by Brandt and was making Jeeps under license.

In 1966 , the Hotchkiss brand was taken over by Thomson - Houston.

However , Hotchkiss is known for major invention - the Hotchkiss drive.

The driveline construction of a Rear Wheel Drive vehicle design with 2 Universal joint fitted propeller shaft and the rear axle assy mounted on semi-elliptic leaf springs is credited to Hotchkiss and even now known as Hotchkiss drive.  The Hotchkiss drive was simpler and less costly than the torque tube (De Dion Axle) of that time.

The Hotchkiss Logo - crossed cannons from the early years when they were making guns and cannons.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

VAUXHALL - The modern British

Scottish Engineer Alexander Wilson founded the Alex Wilson and Company in 1857 to manufacture pumps and marine engines. In 1897, the company was renamed as Vauxhall Iron Works after the city of Vauxhall where it was located.

In 1903 , Vauxhall Iron Works started manufacturing cars and the first car was a 4-seater with the driver seated behind the passengers and steering through a tiller mechanism.

A 1903 Vauxhall -

In 1907 the company was renamed as Vauxhall Motors.

In 1908, Vauxhall developed the famous Y-Type Y1 car for the RAC Scottish reliability trials which spawned a new series of successful cars named as A-type.

Some of the famous Vauxhall cars -

A 1912 Vauxhall A-type  -

A 1912 Prince Henry -

A 1920 Vauxhall Velox -

In 1925 Vauxhall Motors was acquired by General Motors of USA. Post the takeover, Vauxhall was integrated in to the European operations of General Motors along with Opel.

A 1950 Post War Vauxhall Velox -

A 1975 Vauxhall Chevette related to Chevrolet -

A modern speedster Vauxhall VX220 -

The Vauxhall logo -

The logo was derived from the coat of arms of Fulk le Breant 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

MORRIS - "The Hindustan"

William Richard Morris, later Lord Nuffield, (1877 - 1963) , was running his own bicycle repair business. In 1909, he created Morris Garage (MG) for repairing bicycles, cars as well as he was dealing in the sale sale of cars - Wolseley, Humber, Singer and Standard cars.

In 1912, he decided to enter in to manufacturing cars and founded Morris Motors. Morris Motors manufactured cars by sourcing components, engines, gearboxes from other manufactures.

A 1913, Morris Oxford car -

The car was named as Oxford after his hometown and came to be known as "Bullnose" in view of the design of the radiator grill.

In 1927, Morris Motors acquired Wolseley Motor Company. 

In order to meet the competition from Austin 7 model of Austin Motors, Morris Motor company introduced the Morris Minor in 1928.

Few more small car designed follow from Morris Motors, Morris 8 being one them.

A 1936 Morris 8 -

By 1935 , Morris Garage (MG) has transformed itself in to a separate car company, mainly involved in making re-bodies Morris cars as well converting Morris cars to sports versions. MG Company was integrated in to Morris Motors in 1935.

In 1952, a major merger between Austin Motors and Morris Motors created the British Motor Corporation (BMC).

Sir Alec Issigonis , a well known Automotive Engineer, was recruited back in to BMC and given the task of creating a small car. This project led to the creation of Morris Mini Minor in 1959. 

The Morris Minor had many path breaking design innovations, some of which  were -

  • Front wheel drive
  • Transverse mounted engine
  • Radiator on left to use engine driven cooling fan, where the fan was pushing air on to the radiator
  • A boot lid which opens downwards to increase space
  • Sliding windows so that the inside of doors can be used as storage space
  • Rubber cone suspension instead of springs

The Mini became one of the most famous marques , next only to Model T.

The Oxford range of cars continued to evolve and were produced in India by Hindustan Motors.

A 1948 Morris Oxford MO aka Hindustan Fourteen in India -

A 1950 Morris Oxford II aka Hindustan Landmaster in India -

A 1956 Morris Oxford III aka Hindustan Ambassador in India -

The Morris Motors went through a series of mergers and take overs - In 1966 merger of Jaguar and BMC created the British Motor Holdings(BMH). In 1968 Leyland Motors and BMH merged to form British Leyland Motor Corporation (BLMC). In 1975, BLMC was renamed as British Leyland (BL). In 1986 , BL was renamed as Rover group.

In 1989 , the Rover group was purchased by British Aerospace and later, in 1994, sold off to BMW. In 2000, owing to financial difficulties, BMW sold the Rover brand to a consortium who named the company as MG Rover.

In 2007, Nanjing Automotive group purchased the MG brand.

The Morris Motor Logos -

Saturday, December 7, 2013

AUSTIN - The small car pioneer

Herbert Austin (1866 - 1941) , was chief engineer at Wolseley Tool & Motor Company where we successfully developed smaller car. Unable to convince the management for manufacture of small cars, he left Wolseley.

In 1905, he created Austin Motor Company to design and manufacture cars.

A 1907 Austin 30hp car -

Austin Motor Company was manufacturing luxury as well as sports cars.

In 1922, Austin introduced the most famous car of all - Austin 7 , also known as the "Baby Austin". This car was made with a 700 cc engine to beat the RAC tax which was based on engine capacity.

The Austin 7 was manufactured across the world , under license - by BMW as Dixi, in Japan as Datsun, in France as Rosengart and in the US as American Bantam.

In 1952 , Austin Motor Company and its major rival Morris Motor Company were merged to form the British Motor Corporation (BMC). Austin and Morris continued as separate brands

Renowned automobile engineer , Sir Alec Issigonis was recruited in to BMC to design a small car for BMC in response to the fuel shortages sparked off by Suez canal crisis. In 1959, BMC introduced the most famous car , the Mini - first as Morris Mini and later as Austin Mini.

In 1961, Sir Alec Issigonis and John Cooper of Cooper Car Company converted the Mini to a performance car and was born the Mini Cooper.

A 1963 Austin Mini Cooper -

By 1966 , British Motor Corporation changed as British Motor Holdings (BMH) and in 1969 merged with Leyland Motors to form British Leyland Motor Corporation.

By 1969, the Austin Maxi was introduced -

In 1981, in a financial restructuring , the Austin and Rover brands were merged  to form the Austin Rover group (ARG) and later as Rover group when British Leyland was renamed as Rover.

A 1984  Austin Rover Montego -

This car was sold in India as Rover Montego by Sipani Motors

The Austin/Rover/Morris/Mini brands went through a series of mergers and changed many hands , some of which were British Aerospace, BMW, Ford, MG , Nanjing Automobiles.

Currently the Austin/Rover brands are with Tata Motors and Mini brand with BMW.

The Austin logos -

Sunday, November 10, 2013

BSA - "Unqualified Praise"

Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) was founded 1861 by a group of 14 gunsmiths of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association. BSA was founded to meet the challenge of Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield who started using machines to manufacture arms more efficiently and cheaply.

With demand for small arms reducing , the small arms business was shut down in 1879. In order to utlise the manufacturing facilities , BSA expanded in to manufacture of bicycles. In 1880 the first Di-cycle was manufactured.

A 1880 BSA Di-cycle -

BSA was one of the leading bicycle manufacturer till about 1887, when the demand for small arms peaked again. BSA reverted to manufacture of arms for the military.

BSA experimented with Motor cars in 1907 with a Itala design car which won the 1907 Peking - Paris race. 

A 1907 BSA car -

In 1908 BSA restarted bicycle production and continued till 1957 , when it was sold to Raleigh cycles. Motorcycles production was started in 1909 and continued till 1973 when it was sold to Norton-Villiers-Triumph.

In 1910 , BSA acquired Daimler Motor Company which was in financial difficulty. BSA started using Daimler engines in their cars as well as re-badged the Daimler cars as BSA cars. In 1932, BSA/Daimler acquired Lanchester Motor Company.

BSA was the first company to introduce a mass produced Front wheel drive car in 1929. The car was a 3 wheeler with 2 front wheels and one rear wheel. 

A 1930 BSA 3 Wheeled car -

Later BSA carried on the Front wheel design to a 4 Wheeled car and can be considered as pioneers in front wheel drive cars.

A 1931 BSA front wheel drive car -  TW 5

One of the most famous BSA cars was the BSA Scout.

A 1935 BSA Scout and a 1938 BSA Scout -

After the WWII , BSA shifted back to Rear wheel drive cars. 

Financial troubles at BSA led to Jaguar Cars acquiring BSA in 1960. In between 1966 and 1968 , they were part of BMC (British Motor Corporation) and BMH (British Motor Holdings). In 1968 BSA/Daimler/Lanchester/Jaguar became part of the reorganised and nationalised British Leyland (BL). In 1984, BSA/Daimler/Lanchester along with Jaguar cars became independent of British Leyland. Ford PAG acquired Jaguar cars in 1989 and later sold it off to Tata Motors in 2007. 

The BSA Logos -

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Rolls-Royce : "World's best car"

Sir Frederick Henry Royce (1863 - 1933) was a self made electrical engineer and was involved in making electrical fittings and electric cranes through his own company Royce Ltd. In 1902 , he bought a second hand Decauville car and was not satisfied with its performance and quality. He went about building his own car based on the Decauville car and created a 2-cylinder Royce 10 car in 1904  -

Charles Stewart Rolls (1877 - 1910) was form a rich family. In 1903 , he founded the C S Rolls and Co to import and sell Peugeot cars from France and Minerva cars from Belgium,  in England.

Charles Rolls was introduced to Henry Royce and they created Rolls- Royce Ltd in 1906 with an agreement that C S Rolls and Co will sell the entire production of Rolls-Royce Ltd. By 1907 , C S Rolls and Co was integrated in to Rolls-Royce Ltd.

The first and the most famous car from Rolls-Royce was Silver Ghost , launched in 1907 and continued in production till 1925.

The Silver Ghost did a non-stop 14371 miles gaining the name - "The best car in the world". 

Henry Royce was a perfectionist and the Rolls-Royce cars were known for their smoothness , reliability and quality. The company followed its founder's dictum of - "Take the best that exists and make it better".

1927 , the Silver Ghost gave way to the next generation of famous Rolls-Royce , the Phantom -

In 1931 , Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley Motors.

During the war , Rolls-Royce was forced to manufacture aero engines and were excelling in aircraft engines, creating successive airspeed records.

In 1971 , financial trouble led to nationalization of Rolls-Royce Ltd. In 1973, it was again de-nationalised , forming Rolls-Royce Motors for Automobiles and Rolls-Royce plc for aircraft engines.

In 1980 , the company was taken over by Vickers, an engineering company.

Rolls-Royce continued to manufacture classic cars which were used by the British Royalty and movie stars.

Some of the Rolls-Royce cars -

A 1979 Silver Shadow -

In 1998 Vickers sold off the Rolls-Royce Motors to BMW and Volkswagen in a complex deal. As per the deal, Volkswagen got the Rolls-Royce factory and the patented radiator grill design and BMW got the Rolls-Royce name and logo. This led Volkswagen not being able to use the Rolls-Royce name. After sustained negotiations , in 2003, the entire Rolls-Royce rights were transferred to BMW and now BMW owns Rolls-Royce.

Some of the Rolls-Royce cars , post BMW ownership -

2012 Rolls-Royce Ghost

2013 Rolls-Royce Wraith

The Rolls-Royce logo and hood ornament - the spirit of ecstasy.